The MIT Scratch Team released version 2 of their Scratch programming software this week, and I am impressed, and also a little disappointed.
- Custom blocks, which are basically re-usable methods/functions that you can pass parameters into;
- Webcam integration allows you to add physical interaction to your projects, see http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/10016382/ for an example project;
- Being able to set sprites to clone themselves;
- Being able to store numbers long term “in the cloud”, for example, saving highscores;
- Works directly in the browser, meaning children whose parents wouldn’t allow them to download the software can now use it without downloading anything; and
- New features can potentially be rolled out quicker.
- Because it’s in Flash, it means iPad users still can’t run Scratch, which is a missed opportunity in my opinion.
- I don’t seem to be able to drag the interface, and so the longer text on certain blocks is cut off, e.g. “Switch backdrop to [castle2] and”. And what!? I have to drag it to see that it “waits” at the end…
- There’s still no “switch to background [number]” to pick a random background, grrr.
The other stuff:
- The interface has been changed, saving space by removing the script blocks when not in the script tab, scrollable scripting areas, etc;
- Separating blocks like “when  is clicked” into an Events section makes perfect sense;
- The sharing/social/community feel has been improved;
- They will be producing an offline (downloadable) version in the summer, but I believe this is also Flash based.
But what does it mean for Code Club and its Volunteers?
Well, from what I can gather, Code Club will be updating their material at some point to make it compatible with the new interface and features of 2.0, but in the meantime, there are three things for volunteers to be aware of before this update happens:
- New volunteers may now find it difficult to find the downloadable version 1.4 that is used in the current Code Club material, until Code Club update the worksheets and projects. For reference, the Scratch site itself buries the old v1.4 software away, as it expects everyone to be using 2.0 now. I found it via the bottom right of the Help page. Direct link is here: http://scratch.mit.edu/scratch_1.4/;
- Code Club volunteers will have to decide how to handle the differences between v1.4 and v2.0 until Code Club update their projects. Most children like to carry on with Scratch at home – they will now need to choose between v1.4 (as still used in code club, or start using v2.0 (In the browser) version. v2.0 projects are not backwards compatible with v1.4 projects;
- The new v2.0 version means the letter to parents that I produced before will need to be re-written as children will no longer need to download the software as they previously did. I suspect Code Club will wait for the offline version to become available, and then they’ll update their project resources to mention both the offline and online versions.
What do you make of Scratch 2.0? If you are a code club volunteer, are you looking forward to introducing it in future code club sessions? What sort of impact is it going to have on your sessions?